Today’s track, “Make Your Mama Happy,” was a part of Prince’s 3-disc Crystal Ball collection that was released in 1998. However, much of that music wasn’t recorded in 1998, 1997, or even the 1990’s. Prince had intended to release a triple CD collection titled Crystal Ball in 1987. His record label, Warner Brothers, was not on board with the idea and ultimately they scaled it back and it became the double album magnum opus Sign ‘O’ the Times. Much of the music that didn’t make the cut on Sign ‘O’ the Times ended up back in the vault. “Make Your Mama Happy” is one of those songs. It was released in 1998, but it was recorded in August of 1986.
You would never know it. “Make Your Mama Happy” is timeless funk. It’s as close to sounding like James Brown as anything I’ve ever heard. When you listen to this track keep in mind that Prince played all of the instruments with the exception of saxophone, which was provided by legendary Prince collaborator Eric Leeds. Prince also got a background assist on vocals from Susannah Melvoin. It never ceases to amaze me that one man could walk in to a studio, write something like this, then make it all happen himself…except for the sax, of course, and Leeds’s sax is crucial to this song. Still, Prince’s ability to be a one-man band was mind-blowing. Most drummers cannot drum like this. Most bassists cannot play like this. Most singers cannot sing like this. Guitar might’ve been his greatest strength and it’s mostly buried on this track. Prince did all of it.
The songwriting is interesting to me on “Make Your Mama Happy” for two reasons. 1. Prince did not have the greatest relationship with his mama and rarely mentioned her in his music. While this song is not a direct reference to his own mother, he didn’t mention mothers much in his music, period. 2. The message of the song is, “be cool, stay in school.” It’s all about working hard and passing tests so you can get a good job that pays well. It’s a surprisingly “afterschool special” message for a funky ass Prince song. It’s also coming from someone who went straight from high school to a recording contract and became wildly successful.
Regardless of the message, Prince brought the funk on this track, and that’s been sorely lacking on the Daily Prince blog lately. Shout out to James Brown. Once “Make Your Mama Happy” has you warmed up, keep the funky shit going with “Cold Sweat Pt 1 & 2.”